Janice Savina Rodrigues | NT BUZZ
Every establishment, big or small, always aims at keeping abreast with the changing market trends and bettering themselves with every passing season. The Taj group is one such corporate entity that keeps pushing itself to innovate and bring the best to the people who visit their properties. And in keeping with this the newly appointed executive chef at Vivanta by Taj Panaji, Harpreet Kaur Longani introduced us to the world of gourmet cooking, striking presentation and great taste.
Armed with over two decades of experience and global recognition, Longani is set to change the course of the culinary voyage Goa has embarked on in the last few years. Serving up some delectable food, with equally eye-catching colours, Longani made sure that we savoured the best of her handiwork, some of which were served to prime ministers and other celebrities at different points in her career. Yes she has been the personal chef to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee while on his official visit to China! So you can be assured when you eat at the hotel, it has semblance to dishes once eaten by the crème de la crème.
Now back to the food; the carefully planned menu had a mix of western and Indian flavours. We began our delicious sojourn with a salad that was laid out on our table. The plate was a delightful burst of colour – seasonal greens, reds in the roasted beetroot and baby tomatoes, white and slightly browned bocconcini. This gave us a rather fresh start to our meal.
The soup – Roasted almond and corn soup, with butter turmeric popcorn – yes you read it right, popcorn! That along with the almonds added that crunch to the creamy, wholesome soup that was perfect to warm you from the rainy day chills. The turmeric flavour reminded me of my grandma’s home remedy for flu, albeit in the gourmet packaging.
The entrée – Confit of duck and cheery pie, with onion marmalade – a dish as exotic as its name! Longani is a chef excelling in the Indian cuisine, but this confit put her continental culinary skills a notch higher than most others. The shredded duck blended perfectly with spices sandwiched between two halves of pie pastry topped with the cheery sauce and crisped duck skin and was a masterpiece to look at as well as taste. The onion marmalade was a great addition of zing to the burst of flavours already on the plate. Then, came the palate cleanser in the form of a tangy and cold dollop of sorbet – mango colada.
If this didn’t whet your appetite already, there was main course to follow. Longani made us feel like royalty with the braised shank ‘nalli’ of a Jodhpuri lamb with potato ‘katliyan’ dauphinoise and pilaf rice. The lamb, cooked tender to just fall off the bone, was rich in spice and was aptly complemented by the subtle flavours of the dauphinoise. Thought this is something I would not opt for on a regular basis, it was simply delicious indulgence.
And our gourmet journey came to an end with a slice of a rich, dense cake full of dates, figs and chocolate coupled with a rose petal ice cream. Until then I would have considered the pairing of a date and fig cake with rose petal ice cream to be unconventional given the high sweetness quotient of the two. But here the ice cream was subtle and the cake a sheer delight to dig into.
The menu had vegetarian options as well, but since we did not sample them, it would not be right to mention those. Longani has truly mastered the art of fusion and finding the right balance between Indian cuisine and that of the West. It thus doesn’t come to a surprise that she is often called overseas to train restaurant teams in Indian cuisine across the globe.
These delicacies are unfortunately not on the menu at the Vivanta By Taj Panaji, but the chef is always open to personalising meals. So if you want to sample some celeb favourites do ask the servers for the same.